Autism Provision at Scoil Bhríde Primary School
In September 2007, an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Unit was opened as part of Scoil Bhríde Primary School. This unit caters for the needs of children with ASDs who are of school – going age. The pupil-teacher ratio in the Unit is 6:1 and pupils are further supported by a minimum of two Special Needs Assistants per class.
With the success of the Unit, the SENO (Special Educational Needs Organiser) for North Offaly approached Scoil Bhríde in December 2007 with a view to setting up an additional class to cater for pre-school children. The rationale for the attachment of autism units to mainstream schools is based on research findings which highlighted that children with ASDs progressed better in a structured mainstream learning setting.
Children with ASDs may enrol in an early intervention service from the age of 3 years. Similar to the initial ASD class, enrolments for the pre-school service quickly outnumbered places available. The pre-school unit opened in September 2008. It was the 24th such unit to be established in Ireland and the first such unit in Offaly.
For children with ASDs, early intervention is very important, as are appropriate teaching methods and behaviour management programmes. Such a package helps children develop important social, communication and play skills, that provide the basis for future learning and socialisation. The benefits of early identification and structured intervention are widely acknowledged.
Both classes at Scoil Bhríde, Edenderry cater for the large catchment area of North Offaly extending as far as Mucklagh, Tullamore.
Transport for these pupils is provided and is funded by the Transport Section of the Department of Education & Science.
Scoil Bhríde, Edenderry supports the findings of the Task Force on Autism 2001 in that there is no single method that should be used exclusively to meet the varied needs of children and young people with ASDs, but rather a variety of best practice methods are employed.
Scoil Bhríde places emphasis on developing each child to their fullest potential mindful of the need to assist children in developing their communication, play, social, behavioural and general life skills. Simultaneously, the teaching staff provide access to the Primary School Curriculum. Using the best practice methodologies an effective programme is tailor made for each child.
In the Autism unit inclusion with mainstream peers and activities is sensitively managed and detailed consideration is given to each child’s readiness to engage in an inclusive manner with the mainstream programmes.
Parental involvement in the learning and teaching programmes of children with ASDs is imperative in order to foster consistency between all environments for the children. Scoil Bhríde promotes and facilitates close liaison with parents so that the home and educational environments can complement and reinforce learnings.
Scoil Bhríde works closely with the HSE to facilitate other multi-disciplinary support such as occupational therapy and speech and language therapy in the school. The multi-disciplinary team play a central role in the assessment of pupils with autism, and the development and implementation of individualised learning programmes.